Residual Bearishness: Flashback
If America’s economic landscape seems suddenly alien and hostile to many citizens, there is good reason: they have never seen anything like it. Nothing in memory has prepared consumers for such turbulent change, the sort of upheaval that happens once in 50 years.
The outward sign of the change is an economy that stubbornly refuses to recover from the recession. In a normal rebound, Americans would be witnessing a flurry of hiring, new investment and lending, and buoyant growth. But the U.S. economy remains almost comatose. Unemployment is still high; real wages are declining. The current slump already ranks as the longest period of sustained weakness since the Great Depression.
The 1930s was the last time the economy staggered under as many "structural" burdens, as opposed to the familiar "cyclical" problems that create temporary recessions once or twice a decade. The structural faults represent once-in-a-lifetime dislocations that will take years to work out. Among them: the job drought, the debt hangover, the banking collapse, the real estate depression, the health-care cost explosion, and the runaway federal deficit. "This is a sick economy that won't respond to traditional remedies," said Norman Robertson, chief economist at Mellon Bank. "There's going to be a lot of trauma before it's over."